GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 24, 2013

Health care sign-up snags, fix-it efforts detailed

WASHINGTON (AP) — On the defensive, the Obama administration acknowledged Wednesday its problem-plagued health insurance website didn’t get enough testing before going live. It said technicians were deep into the job of fixing major computer snags but provided no timetable.

Democratic unhappiness with the situation began growing louder — including one call for President Barack Obama to “man up” and fire someone — as the president’s allies began to fret about the political fallout. Democrats had hoped to run for re-election touting the benefits of the health care law for millions of uninsured Americans, but the computer problems are keeping many people from signing up.

And Republican sniping continued unabated, with House Speaker John Boehner declaring, “We’ve got the whole threat of Obamacare continuing to hang over our economy like a wet blanket.”

Obama himself, though strongly defending the health care overhaul, has been increasingly willing to acknowledge extensive problems with the sign-up through online markets. Amid all that, the Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday provided its most specific accounting yet of the troubles with HealthCare.gov — an issue that is also about to get a lengthy, even-less-forgiving airing on Capitol Hill.

The first of several hearings is set for Thursday in the Republican-led House, with lawmakers ready to pounce on the contractors who built the balky online enrollment system.

Acknowledging what’s been obvious to many outside experts, the administration said yesterday that the system didn’t get enough testing, especially at a high user volume.

It blamed a compressed time frame for meeting the Oct. 1 deadline to open the insurance markets. Basic “alpha and user testing” are now completed, but that’s supposed to happen before a launch, not after.

The Health and Human Services explanation identified some bugs that have gotten little outside attention.

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